Transcript: The Future of our Fight against Terrorism

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And even then, the cost to our relationship with Pakistan and the backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory was so severe that we are just now beginning to rebuild this important partnership.

So it is in this context that the United States has taken lethal, targeted action against al-Qaida and its associated forces, including with remotely piloted aircraft commonly referred to as drones. As was true in previous armed conflicts, this new technology raises profound questions about who is targeted and why, about civilian casualties and the risk of creating new enemies, about the legality of such strikes under U.S. and international law, about accountability and morality.

So let me address these questions. To begin with, our actions are effective. Don't take my word for it. In the intelligence gathered at bin Laden's compound, we found that he wrote, we could lose the reserves to enemies' airstrikes; we cannot fight airstrikes with explosives. Other communications from al-Qaida operatives confirm this as well. Dozens of highly skilled al-Qaida commanders, trainers, bomb makers and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan. Simply put, these strikes have saved lives.

Moreover, America's actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law and international law, the United States is at war with al-Qaida, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war, a war waged proportionally, in last resort and in self-defense.

And yet as our fight enters a new phase, America's legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance, for the same progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power, or risk abusing it.

And that's why, over the last four years, my administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists -- insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified in presidential policy guidance that I signed yesterday.

In the Afghan war theater we must, and will continue to, support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014. And that means we will continue to take strikes against high-value al- Qaida targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces.

But by the end of 2014 we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we have made against core al-Qaida will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.

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